By DeAnn Lubell
One thing for sure, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in the case of. Melissa Neiderman. Melissa, author of The Hummingbird Troupe, is the daughter of the internationally renowned author and ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman. Melissa recently worked with her father on the Edgar Allan Poe nominated biography, The Woman Beyond the Attic, The V.C. Andrews Story.
Melissa may share a talent for writing with her father; however, this bright, outgoing woman also shares compassion for others taught by her mother Diane and her father Andrew. “At a very early age my parents instilled in me the act of giving back to others,” said Melissa. “They have given me the inspiration to be a voice for those too quiet to be heard.”
Her journey leading to the penning of her book The Hummingbird Troupe began in May of 2014. Melissa had received a call from a friend asking if there was any way she could possibly help a local girl, Desi Cechin, who had been diagnosed with a cancer called neuroblastoma. “Is there really any other answer than yes when this question is presented to you,” said Melissa. “After that yes was spoken, I panicked. What did I know about helping a child in this situation? What did I know about supporting a family whose life had just taken a turn down a frightening, dark road? I didn’t know much, but what I did know is that I lived in a community where there were the most giving people you could imagine. Our community was good, that’s what I knew.”
Friends and family weren’t surprised that Melissa offered to help. She has spent most of her life helping others. She spent 21 years as a teacher in upstate New York and locally at Washington Charter School, Goleta at Mountain View School, and Palm Valley School. It was during her years with Palm Valley that she started the annual Walk-a-those for the American Heart Association. Since retirement, she became a fulltime volunteer for the American Cancer Society Local Chapter serving as event chair, advisory chair, leadership council member, and community engagement volunteer.
And then came little Desi, who stole Melissa’s heart. Desi’s life was cut too short because of her cancer and when she passed, Melissa was devastated. “I had a very difficult time coming to terms with the loss of this beautiful child who taught us all how to live life to the fullest,” said Melissa. “The Hummingbird Troupe is both my therapy and a tribute to the impact Desi left on al who knew her.”
Melissa’s book is a sentimental tribute to Desi. It is an uplifting moral tale about turning adversity into triumph and finding one’s way in the world without sacrificing the things that make one unique. It was beautifully illustrated by Garyk Lee. “His illustrations instantly bring the beauty of Desi and the message of hope that I dreamed the book would convey,” said Melissa.
Melissa’s book, The Hummingbird Troupe, can be purchased on Amazon. To find out more about the Desi Strong Foundation go to www.desistrongfoundation.org. The foundation purchased The Hummingbird Troupe books to be paired with their Desi doll.
Profile photo credit: John Paschal
Other photos provided by Melissa Neiderman